Hospital says rape kit fix in the works

A new plan is “in the works” to hire permanent sexual assault nurse examiners at the Ottawa Hospital — replacing the on-call system — ensuring rape kits will always be available.

“We owe it to our population to be there 24/7, so we’re going to put the staff in place,” said advanced practice nurse Janet Brownlee, who oversees the Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program.

“There will always be someone in the building.”

The program at the Civic campus came under fire last summer after at least three sexual assault victims were turned away due to a staffing shortage.

Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 83 bargaining unit president Frances Smith calls the permanent staffing initiative “a positive change.”

“I think that they (hospital brass) were appalled that all of this fell through the cracks,” she said.

The move also eliminates the pay issue, since on-call nurses in the program earn less than $4 an hour if they’re not called in.

“We all have bills to pay,” Smith said, adding nurses often juggle jobs in other departments at the hospital where they’re paid almost $30.

Roughly 156 patients were admitted between July 2010 and May 2011, and 146 were seen within one hour.

About 20 on-call sexual assault nurse examiners — including Brownlee — are at the Civic and now, “it’s much more of a clinically competent program,” she said.

Structural changes have been made, namely hiring Brownlee last October.

Ever since, “we’ve not had to turn anyone (sexual assault victims) away,” she said.


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